tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 13, 2014 3:00am-5:01am EST
and, again, i'm just so honored. carl, i -- one of the great joys of my life has been to serve with you for two years. one of the great sadnesses of my life is that it's only two years. but i deeply appreciate what you've done for this body and for the united states of america. bless you. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from new york. mr. schumer: i know my good friend from iowa is waiting patiently so i will greatly curtail my remarks. i would simply like to say to my dear friend, carl, who we will all miss, if you had to put a headline on what's happening today, it's "mr. integrity retires from the senate." there is no one, no one in this body on either side of the aisle whose integrity is more respected than yours, carl. you have many great traits. but at these times in america, when people have such distrust of government and elected officials, to have somebody who
is so widely trusted by his constituency and by the members of this body who've worked with him closely over the years on both sides of the aisle, is a real tribute. you are mr. integrity and that is one of many reasons we will miss you. and again, i'd have more to say but in deference to my dear friend from iowa, who i see is ready to roll, i will yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: i will be brief as well, mr. president, just to say that i'm going to miss my colleague and i've told him that personally but i wanted to share just a couple of reasons. one, as a new member on the other side of the aisle when i first got here, carl, who i had gotten to know a little bit through his brother, who i see is on the floor with us today, who has fought many fights with him on the squash court but they remain dear friends. he came to me and said, you
ought to join the auto caucus. i'm not a big caucus guy. most caucuses don't do much in this place and then i saw what he was doing with the auto caucus and he agreed to allow me to come on as cochair and we've had a -- an opportunity to help to fight for the autoworkers in michigan and ohio, around the country and to ensure that the renaissance of the auto industry is sustained. but he, as i'm sure has been said by many here today, went out of his way to make it not just bipartisan but nonpartisan. he does his homework. we share some committee assignments. we don't always agree. in fact, sometimes we disagree on some fundamental issues. but i always know he's well prepared, does his homework and has the very best intentions and that says a lot for him and for the reason that he's viewed as such a leader in the senate. finally, when i got here, i was honored to serve on the armed services committee and there we were able to work together on a number of projects, including ones that, frankly, he might not normally have thought were
priorities but because i was a new member and interested in helping my state on some specific projects, he stood up for me and i will not forget that. we've also done legislation together and had the opportunity to work together on some important projects that have to do with the great lakes, including great lakes restoration, where he's also been a nonpartisan partner. so i join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in saying that this is one of those giants of the senate who will be missed. and although i've only been here for four of his many years of service, i was privileged to serve with him. i yield back. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: mr. president, i know senator harkin is ready now to speak and is truly one of the great senators that i've ever served with. senator harkin is one of the greatest people i've ever known,
he and ruth and barb and i have spent quality time which is not true for so many of us around here to have that opportunity. i just want to thank everybody whose words have meant so much to me and my family today. i'm going to join my family now and i know that tom will forgive me for not listening, but i will be reading what you say and you and ruth and barb and i will have some more quality time iow.
term in the united states senate. that decision and that announcement didn't seem all that difficult or hard at that time. after all, two years was a long time off. since then i've been busy with having hearings and meeting constituents and getting legislation to the help committee and working on appropriations. but now, knowing this will be my final formal speech on the floor of the u.s. senate, now knowing that in a few days a semitruck is going to pull up to the hart building and load hundreds of boxes of my records of 40e -- 40 yeerks -- 40 years, 30 in the senate and 10 in the house and haul that off to drake university and civic and public communications in des moines, iowa, now seeing my office at
the hart building stripped almost bare and the shelves clean, now when i will soon cast my last vote, now when i will no longer be engaged in legislative battle, when i will no longer be summoned by the senate bells, now when i will soon just be number 1,763 of all of the senators who etch -- who ever served in the united states senate, now, now the leaving becomes hard and wrenching and emotional. and that's because i love the united states senate. i love my work here. it's been said by a lot of pundits that the senate's broken. no, it's not. the senate's not broken. oh, maybe a few dents, a couple
of scrapes here and there, banged up a little bit, but there is still no other place in america where one person can do big things for good or for ill, for our people and our nation. i love the people with whom i work. this is a deaf sign, i-l-y. it means i love you. senators, staff, clerks, congressional research service, doorkeepers, restroom, police, congressional employees, yes, the pages, especially to those who labor outside the lights and cameras and the news stories who make this senate function on a daily basis, i thank you. i particularly want to thank my wonderful hardworking dedicated staff both present and past, both personal and committee
staff. when i say committee staff, i mean the appropriations, subcommittee on labor services which i've been privileged to chair since 1989. also the committee on agriculture on which i have served since 1985, which i chaired twice for two farm bills, once in 2001 and 2002 and the second one in 2007 and 2009. the committee on health, education, labor and pensions which i shared since the untimely death of senator ted kennedy in 2009. i first heard pat leahy say this, so i always attribute it to him. he once said that we senators are just a constitutional impediment to the smooth functioning of staff. this is truer than most of us would probably like to admit.
also in thanking my staff, i don't just mean those who work in washington. i would never have been reelected four times without the hands-on, day in day out constituent service of my iowa staff. the casework they have done in helping people with problems is every bit as important as any legislative work done here in washington. in 2012, our office marked a real milestone. the 100,000th constituent service case that we've processed since 1985. i cannot count the number of times iowans personally thanked me fofer -- for something my staff has done to help them. there is a story out our way that i've heard for a long time. it goes like this, if you're driving down a country road and you see a turtle sitting on a
fence post, you can be sure of one thing. it didn't get there by itself. i can relate to that turtle. i didn't get here by myself. my staff helped. so i thank my staff of past and present who have so strongly support immediate when i was right, so diplomatically corrected me when i was wrong, and who all labored in a shared commitment to provide a hand up, a ladder of opportunity to those who had been dealt a bad hand in the lottery of life. i ask consent, mr. president, to list of names of my staffs so they will be forever enshrined in the history of the united states senate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: but most of all, i thank my wife ruth, the love of my life, my wife of 46 years. you have been my constant
companion, my soul mate, my strongest supporter, and my most honest critic. you've been my joy in happy times and my solace when things just didn't go right. so i'm looking forward to more adventures and love and excitement with you in the years ahead. to our two beautiful, smart, caring and compassionate daughters amy and jenny, i thank you for always being there for your dad, for giving me such wondrous joy in being a part of your growing up. i am so proud of both of you. and to my son-in-law steve and to my grandkids, daisy and luke and nequaid, look out, here comes grandpa. there is so much i want to say but i want to be respectful of those who have come to share
this moment with me. my staff, here and there, my family and friends and fellow senators. but i want to state as briefly as i can why i'm here. what has propelled me? what has been my guiding philosophy for all these years? it has to do with that ladder of opportunity that i just mentioned. you see, there's nothing wrong in america with being a success. there's nothing wrong with having more money and having a nicer home and a nicer car and sending your kids to good schools and having nice vacations and a great retirement. that is a big part of the american dream. but i believe that when you make it to the top and you make it to the top and you make it to the top and i make it to the top, one of the primary responsibilities of our free government is to make sure we leave the ladder down for others
to climb. now, mind you, i said ladder. i didn't say an escalator. an escalator is a free ride. don't believe in that. but if you follow my analogy a little bit more, with a ladder you still have to use energy and effort, initiative to get up. but in order to do that, there must be rungs on that ladder. that's where government comes in. to put some rungs there. the bottom rungs, everything from the child health care programs, the head start, the best public schools, the best teachers, affordable and accessible college, job training
sometimes -- sometimes people fall off that ladder. sometimes they have an illness, they have an accident. that's why we have a safety net, to catch them. things like disability insurance and work men's compensation, job retraining programs to get them back up on that ladder once again. 35 years ago we looked around america and we saw millions of people that no matter how hard they tried could never climb that ladder of success. no matter how hard they tried, could never do it. these are our fellow americans, our brothers and sisters with disabilities. so what did government do? we built them a ramp and we called it the americans with disabilities act.
now again, we didn't build a moving walk way, did we? you see, with a ramp you still have to exert energy and initiative to get up. i've often said there's not one dime, not one nickel in the americans with disabilities act given to a person with a disability. what we did is we broke down the barriers. we opened the doors of accessibility and accommodation and we said to people with disabilities, follow your dreams. and in the words of the army motto, "be all you can be." i can remember standing here leading the charge on the americans with disabilities act. once again i feel a lot like that turtle. i had a lot of people helping. when i think of the americans
with disabilities act, i think of people like senator lowell weiker, senator bob dole, senator ted kennedy in the senate. in the house tony convey low and steve bartlett and steny hoyer. in the executive branch at the head of it all, president george herbert walker bush. attorney general dick thornburgh, boyden gray. and on the outside, people like ed roberts and marko bristo, bob kafka and the indomitable justin dart. and here, the one person who worked his heart out to bring it together, it's that staff again i tell you about. that staff. bobby silverstein. it would have never have happened without him. and so i believe that government
must not be just an observant bystander to life. it must be a force for good, for lifting people up, for giving hope to the hopeless. you know, i've never had an "i love me" wall in my office. what i did have were two items on the wall by my door when i walk out to go vote or go to a committee meeting or whatever. one is a drawing of the house in which my mother was born and lived until she was 25 years of age when she emigrated to america. that small, little house was in yugoslavia. it is now sluha slovenia. that little house had a dirt floor, no running water. that was my mother's house. the second item on my wall is this: it's my father's w.p.a.
card. it says notice to report for work on a project, w.p.a. form 402. it is to patrick f. harkin, cuming iowa. you're asked to report for work as a laborer for $40.30 per month. the date is four months to the day before i was born. get this picture. my father was then 53 years old. he had worked most of the time in the coal mines of southern iowa. not in the best of health. there were no jobs. no jobs. life looked pretty bleak. things looked hopeless. and then my father, who only had
a sixth grade education, as he told me later, he always said i got a letter from franklin roosevelt. he always thought franklin roosevelt sent this to him personally, you see. he got that letter from franklin roosevelt and i got a job. it was important for a lot of reasons, not only for the money and the dignity of work, but it gave my father hope, the hope that tomorrow would be better than today, that our family would stay together. we had five kids and a sixth one on the way, me. and it gave him hope that his kids would have a better future. i often think that the project he worked on is called lake aquabie. my friend, senator grassley, knows about that lake.
it's a state park with a lake, recreation. people still use it today. every federal judge who is sworn in takes an oath to -- quote -- do equal right to the poor and to the rich, to do equal right to the poor and to the rich. can we here in congress say that we do that, that we provide equal right to the poor and the rich alike? our growing inequality proves we are not. maybe we should be taking that oath. there are four overriding issues that i hope this senate will address in this coming session and in the years ahead. number one, as i mentioned, the growing economic inequality in america. it's destructive of lives, it slows our progress as a nation and it will doom broad suppo